Yale Closes on NCAA Basketball Return With Win Over Harvard

(Bloomberg) — Yale University is one win away from a return to the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament after 53 years following a 62-52 defeat of Harvard University.

The win for the Bulldogs in front of a sold-out crowd at Lavietes Pavilion in Boston last night broke a two-way tie atop the Ivy League standings. Yale has at least a share of the conference title and can clinch an NCAA tournament berth with a win tonight at Dartmouth.

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A Yale victory against the sixth-place Big Green would break Harvard’s recent dominance in the eight-team Ivy League. Under coach Tommy Amaker, the Crimson have won at least a share of the past four conference titles and played in each of the past three NCAA tournaments.

Harvard last year won the title by four games over Yale with a 13-1 record in league play. In the NCAA tournament the Crimson upset fifth-seeded Cincinnati to become the first Ivy League team since Princeton in 1983-84 to win games in back-to-back NCAA tournaments.

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Harvard’s top three scorers from that team returned this year, making the Crimson a unanimous choice in the league’s preseason media poll to win a fifth consecutive title. Yale was second in that ranking, after the Bulldogs advanced to the final of the 32-team CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) last year.

Potential Playoff

Yale took the lead for good against Harvard on a 3-point jumper by Greg Kelley with five minutes, 42 seconds remaining in the first half. The Bulldogs extended the advantage to 12 points with less than 14 minutes to play in the game before Harvard scored eight unanswered points to trim the deficit to four.

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The Bulldogs added to their tally for the first time in 5:25 with a 3-pointer and the Crimson closed to within two points at 43-41 with 3:40 to play before Yale again pulled away.

The Bulldogs stretched their advantage back to nine points with 20 seconds remaining before Harvard trimmed the deficit to six points with a 3-pointer by Wesley Saunders with 17 seconds left on the clock. It was as close as the Crimson got as the Bulldogs closed out the game with four points from the free-throw line.

Javier Duren led Yale with 22 points and nine rebounds, while Steve Moundou-Missi had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Harvard.

Potential Playoff

Should Yale (22-8, 11-2 Ivy League) lose at Dartmouth (13-14, 6-7), and Harvard (20-7, 10-3) beat Brown (13-17, 4-9) tonight, the Bulldogs and Crimson would meet next week at a neutral site for a one-game playoff to determine who receives the NCAA tournament berth. There have been eight playoffs in Ivy League history, most recently in 2011.

Entering this weekend, Yale junior Justin Sears and senior Javier Duren were both in the top five in Ivy scoring. The New Haven, Connecticut, school’s 68.7 points per game were the highest in the conference, as was its +7.8 average scoring margin.

The Bulldogs were ranked No. 86 in the country, according to the Sagarin Ratings, which takes into account record, strength of schedule and location of wins. Harvard was the top-ranked Ivy team at No. 80.

Yale is 0-4 all-time in the NCAA tournament, with two of those losses coming in 1949, when the format wasn’t single-elimination. The Bulldogs’ most recent tournament appearance was in 1962, when they lost 92-82 to Wake Forest.

Since then Yale has won a shared conference title once, in 2001-02, losing to Penn in its playoff.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eben Novy-Williams in New York at enovywilliam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net Dex McLuskey

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